Equitation Over Fences Analysis

In Part 2 of this horse-training series, discover the last two tips that will help you maneuver your horse through an equitation over fences course.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

At the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show, AQHA Professional Horsewomen Linda Crothers of Mocksville, North Carolina, and Cindy Reddish of Palm City, Florida, gave a Nutrena Ride the Pattern clinic on the equitation over fences prelims pattern, also touching on hunt seat equitation.

With Linda riding to demonstrate and Cindy holding the pattern in her hand, the two pros talked back and forth on strategies for the course. What follows are the highlights of the strategies they discussed. In Part 1 of this series, Linda and Cindy covered the importance of bending lines in this over-fences pattern. Review bending lines before learning about the next two important factors these horsewomen bring up: The rollback turn and trot jump strategy.

Rollback Turn

“As I’m jumping the first jump (No. 5) into the rollback (to No. 6), I’m looking, so that my body language is telling my horse I want to go right,” Linda says. “I’m not really pulling on him or pushing on him, but I’ve got more left leg to right rein, keeping my eye on that jump.”

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Linda talks as she approaches No. 5.

Find your distance to the first one. Remember, your horse has to look where you are looking. I’m going to start to find my track where I want to be (in the turn); I see where I want to be.”

Over the fence, she then turns her head to follow her track:

“I’m going to look over here, to find my next jump, but not swing my head around dramatically.

“We all, as trainers, preach ‘Eyes up, look where you want to go,’ but you’ve also got to remember to look for your horse’s ears, because you want to go where he’s looking.”

“If you bring your body back (in the turn), your hands and your arms with the same bend will come back with you, and it looks like your hands aren’t moving at all,” Cindy says, “and that transition is smooth. It’s all in the difference in the angle of your body.”

Trot Jump Strategy

Jump No. 7 is a trot jump to a bending line to No. 8.

“Every time there is a trot jump into a line, you will add one stride to your line,” Linda says. “This is set at 72 feet, which is cantered five strides, so if I trot into it, I need six. You can’t trot in and think you’ll run down and get five strides.

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“I’m looking to where I want to be,” Linda says as she takes the line. “I see the first jump, but I’m looking at the second because that’s where I need to be. I need to keep my line a little more to the inside.”

“She kept her eyes up and rode that line straight,” Cindy says. “The mistake I see in the eq-over on a trot fence is cantering that last stride before the trot jump. Everyone gets anxious (in the approach to the trot jump), and you will get points off for cantering that last stride. Keep the trot – sitting trot, posting trot, or two-point the last couple of steps, whatever works for you and your horse.”

“How far back do you start trotting?” Linda responds to a question from the crowd. “I tell my more advanced riders to canter through the turn, straighten up to the jump and trot. I think you want to trot at least six steps, but there’s not a set number.

“But (doing that) shows more control. Like in the (hunt seat equitation prelims pattern), where you go from basically a hand gallop and back to a collected canter around the corner to your trot.”

Cindy adds: “See how the (equitation over fences) corresponds to the (hunt seat equitation)? She has to have a feel of that horse’s mouth to get him to wait for her. And when you are negotiating a pattern (on the flat or over fences), you need to have a slight feel of your horse’s mouth to negotiate the transitions.”

AQHA Video

Make sure you're ready to navigate a challenging pattern, like the one discussed above, by staying limber in the saddle with these yoga tips from Tammy Pate.